Mr. Robert Dickerson was present to protest the renewal of the license for the Tilted Pig, along with 4-5 other neighbors. Dickerson lives directly across the street from the establishment.
Mr. Hurdle made a preliminary motion to dismiss the petition in opposition to the renewal of the license, because the petition did not say that the signatories are not holders of liquor licenses. Article 2B says that neighbors who wish to protest the renewal of a liquor license must not be liquor license holders. Hurdle also raised the 200-foot rule again. Chairman Ward denied Mr. Hurdle’s preliminary motion. Speaking about the 200-foot rule, Ward said, “it’s the most ridiculous rule I’ve ever heard in my life” and “it’s a rule which makes protests impossible. It’s an impossible rule. It’s an unfair rule.”
Mr. Dickerson then continued with his case. He lives right across the street from the Tilted Pig. The place originally opened up as a sports bar. They have consistently hosted live entertainment without permission from the Board. They are also consistently over the capacity of the building. The licensee has been cited and found guilty of live entertainment without a license and being over capacity. Dickerson submitted many months’ worth of flyers advertising live entertainment, as well as photographs of live entertainment and photographs of DJs who perform at the Tilted Pig. Dickerson said that the live entertainment without permission was on ongoing thing, not a one or two time matter.
Chairman Ward asked, “do you agree that you do not have permission for live entertainment?” Mr. Hurdle answered for his clients that they did understand this. Dickerson said that the Tilted Pig is still violating the law. He submitted information about a CD release party, hosted by DJ Meal Ticket, from a month and a half before the hearing. Dickerson said that he monitors the Twitter feeds of the establishment; he said that there have been other violations which have not been heard before the Board yet. The inspector who wrote the reports is out on medical leave. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth confirmed that there are pending violation charges.
Mr. Dickerson continued with his case. At closing time, the bar ejects “massive amounts of people into the street at 1am. It looks like the Pigtown festival at 1:00 in the morning.” He then provided the Board with video footage, taken from inside his home, of many incidents from April 2013 to March 2014. The footage, shown to Commissioners on a laptop, could not be seen from the audience; Mr. Dickerson described the date of each video and what it showed. The videos showed many patrons on the street: some passed out on the sidewalk, some extremely loud and inebriated, some turning on loud music from parked cars and hanging out with Tilted Pig staff in the doorway of the bar. Multiple videos showed loud arguments and other yelling, and at least one showed a fistfight. Dickerson said that, in the interest of time, he did not show the Board all of the videos that he had, but he was trying to convey a “pattern of flouting the rules of the liquor license.” The licensee’s strategy, according to Dickerson is to pack in as many people as possible into the bar. Since one of the DJs stopped performing at the Tilted Pig, the establishment has been quieter, but Friday nights are now ramping up more. (Previously, Tuesday nights were the problem nights.)
Dickerson then submitted a list of all of the 311 and 911 calls made about the Tilted Pig during the time period in question. He did not have them added up, but Commissioner Jones pointed out that there are around 4 single-spaced pages of requests, all tied to the Tilted Pig’s address.
When asked whether Dickerson had tried to work with the licensee, he replied that he had tried to tell the licensee that the music and patrons were too loud. After the licensee told him on three separate occasions that it would not happen again, the landlord of the building accused Dickerson of libel, and told him that any further communication would have to be through a lawyer. When the Commissioners asked him if there were any improvements to the conditions, Dickerson responded, no and that it had gotten a lot worse.
Dickerson submitted more evidence taken from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of overcrowding and illegal live entertainment. Mr. Hurdle objected to these screenshots from social media, because he said that anyone could have uploaded them to the Tilted Pig’s page.
On cross-examination, Hurdle asked whether Dickerson had ever been inside the establishment to check whether there was a DJ. Dickerson replied that he had not. Hurdle asked, how many of the 84 calls did you call in yourself? Dickerson replied, maybe 12. Hurdle asked, “do you know what their special is on Tuesdays?” Dickerson said, “it used to be dollar crabs.” Hurdle replied, “that’s correct.” Hurdle then asked whether it was possible that the crowds came from Jigg’s, which is a bar located a block south of the Tilted Pig. Dickerson did not know whether it was possible, because he doesn’t usually witness people coming out of Jigg’s.
Commissioner Moore asked Mr. Bernard Sanders, the manager of the Tilted Pig, whether he recognized the photos and flyers submitted by Mr. Dickerson. Sanders responded that a party promoter could have screenshotted the Tilted Pig’s logo and used it without their permission. Moore responded that the images that Mr. Dickerson had provided match up with the video shown and the complaints. She said, “there is internal consistency. there’s a story that’s being told.” Sanders responded that when they have noise complaints, they turn the noise down. He said that the Tilted Pig staff have been cooperative. He complained that the liquor board inspector “kind of killed our business. The Liquor Board, they came every week for 10-11 weeks straight. Why? We’re not doing anything wrong.” Mr. Hurdle added that the owners of the license are trying now to move the license out of the neighborhood because of the constant complaints.
The Commissioners and Hurdle questioned Dickerson about whether, when and why the nuisance issues have slowed down at the establishment since March 2014. Dickerson responded that the nuisance complaints have lessened since the second Liquor Board violation in March 2014, but they have not stopped.
Ms. Virginia Creek testified next, as a community member protesting the renewal of the license. She lives one block over from Washington Boulevard on Ramsay Street. She took notes on various incidents with the Tilted Pig between June 13, 2013 and February 18, 2014. She told the Board that she has personally experienced nuisances because of the Tilted Pig at least two times per week. Starting at 8:30pm, cars speed through the neighborhood, patrons walk down the street arguing, fighting, and screaming, going to and coming from the bar. They loiter and leave trash in the street and sell and use illegal drugs. The free valet parking that the Tilted Pig offers leads to a lot of outside cars parked in the neighborhood. Residents can’t find parking spots near their own homes. On July 16, 2013, she was awakened by loud cursing and music. There were two intoxicated women in the street, one of whom Ms. Creek saw urinate in the middle of the street. She has witnessed the same thing three other times. Creek has made numerous calls to the police. She has lived in the neighborhood all 60 years of her life. Sometimes, she is afraid to sit on her own steps or walk around the corner because of the Tilted Pig’s patrons. She is tired of being awakened at night. She added, to address Mr. Hurdle’s questions from earlier, Jigg’s is a neighborhood bar that neighborhood people go to; it does not attract same crowd as the Tilted Pig. Creek said that the noise has lessened somewhat, but the neighbors continue to be plagued by noise, trash, and constant disturbances. She said that the Tilted Pig is not a good fit for the neighborhood and is detrimental to the community’s future growth. She asked the Board not to let one bad business chase away residents.
Mr. Hurdle cross-examined Ms. Creek about her testimony. Hurdle asked whether Creek was sure that the women were going to the Tilted Pig. Ms. Creek said that she saw the women go inside the establishment after they urinated in the street. Hurdle clarified, “before she was a patron, she urinated in the street.” Creek replied, “yes.” When asked about Jigg’s, Creek said that it is not a problem for the neighborhood. She said that old men sit around that bar all day and talk and drink a little beer. In comparison, young adults go to the Tilted Pig, and they get out of control. Mr. Hurdle asked the neighbor if the noise and parking irritations could be due to the proximity to the M & T Bank Stadium; Ms. Creek said no, they were because of the Tilted Pig. Creek said that normally, her “neighborhood is very quiet; you can hear a pin drop.”
Mr. Terry Adelsberger testified as one of the owners of the Tilted Pig. He told the Board that he “takes care of organization of [the Tilted Pig]” and does work behind the scenes. After the violations issued by the board in the spring of 2014, he said that he made sure that everybody in the bar changed their ways and complied with the inspectors. He “fired everybody” and replaced all of the security personnel. Adelsberger continued, “we’ve got a few neighbors who don’t want any young black people on that block.” Commissioner Moore interrupted Adelsberger immediately and told him that the Commmissioners would not hear allegations of racism unless Mr. Adelsberger can substantiate them. Chairman Ward added, “let me add on to that. In my courtroom, it was a tactic to raise the issue of race where there was absolutely no evidence that racism existed.” He told Adelsberger that if he knew of specific neighbors who had said something of concern, he could bring it up in the hearing, but for Adelsberger “to make a blanket statement is outrageous” and “only used for purpose of prejudice.”
Adelsberger continued with his testimony. He said that he himself had made most of the 911 and 311 calls that Dickerson submitted to the Board. He said that, in March, when they were very busy, “we got violations for anything we did minutely out of order.” When the establishment received violations, the manager would close down the whole bar and turn everyone out on the street, and the patrons made noise and caused disorder. He then testified that the bar had changed their operations to comply with the law and that “business is down a zillion percent.” One of the Commissioners asked whether the Tilted Pig had had any large crowds lately, and Adelsberger said, “no. If we did, it would be good!” Under questioning from the commissioners, Mr. Adelsberger said that he is at the bar every day, but not in the evenings. He said, “I’m 66 now; I’m in bed at 9:00.” Chairman Ward took another look at the 911 and 311 call list, and said that the documents showed that most of the calls were from the middle of the night, during times that Adelsberger had testified that he was never in the bar.
Adelsberger responded to the evidence provided by the neighbors of large crowds in the street. He said that young people hang out in front of the 7-11 convenience store and the dollar store nearby. He said that the noise and the “hollering” are from young people loitering by those stores, not in front of the Tilted Pig.
During the hearing, Mr. Sanders’ cell phone rang more than once, and Mr. Adelsberger often interrupted the commissioners. After Sanders’ cell phone rang the second time, Ward turned to Mr. Hurdle and said, “you’re in charge of your clients. This is outrageous. What is wrong with him?” Mr. Hurdle apologized for Sanders and said that his daughter was calling him.
Moore said to Adelsberger, “you mentioned that you’re a one-third owner of the bar. Who owns the other two-thirds?” Mr. Adelsberger responded, “Bernard Sanders and Mr. Richard Davis.” Moore asked, “is [Davis] here?” He responded, “no, he’s super sick.” Toward the end of the commissioners’ questions, Moore asked Adelsberger, “have you had anything to drink today?” Adelsberger said, “no.” Moore said, “Your testimony is coming out completely inconsistent.” Adelsberger responded, “I’m telling the truth, I swear to God.”
Mr. Bernard Sanders was the last to testify, as the day to day manager. As he began speaking, Commissioner Moore told him to stand up straight and to speak into the microphone, because he was leaning very heavily on the podium and hunched over. He said that he makes sure that the bar has enough food and liquor to get through the night, and he usually leaves around 7pm to go to his other job in Washington DC. He corroborated Mr. Adelsberger’s testimony, that the licensees did not know that they did not have permission for live entertainment and they did not know that dancing was considered live entertainment.